The Retezat Massif has received a Rapid Response Facility (RRF) grant to undertake urgent snow-tracking surveys in response to a road-building threat through the Carpathian Mountains. This protected area is on Romania’s World Heritage tentative list, and is known for its plant diversity, endemism and rich fauna, including the Eurasian eagle-owl, the gray wolf and the brown bear.
The site contains Romania’s oldest protected area, Retezat National Park, established in 1935. Half of the country’s bird species and a third of its plant species have are known to exist here. Over the years, much of the surrounding lands have been converted to agriculture. The only remaining ecological connectivity to surrounding forest lands is through a narrow forested corridor to the north. Maintaining ecological connectivity allows populations of plants and animals to move through a broader landscape, ensuring better genetic health, and increasing overall capacity to adapt to climate change impacts.
A motorway-building project is currently underway and is projected to cut through the corridor, contributing to the Massif’s isolation from the wider Carpathian Mountains wilderness. Current environmental mitigation measures proposed for the new motorway are not adequate enough to safeguard wildlife and are projected to contribute to ecological isolation and animal mortality if not improved. Zarand, an NGO local to Retezat, applied for RRF funding and was successful in its proposal to carry out a series of snow-tracking surveys to collect baseline mammal data, which will be fed into a revised environmental mitigation plan for the development.
The RRF noted the timely nature of the proposal with regard to current snow cover, and the fact that snow-tracking is a cost-effective and reliable method of gathering information. Verified records of mammal activity in the Retezat area will be used by the recently established motorway Supervisory Group to design appropriate measures to protect the forest corridor that is so vital for environmental integrity in this area.
RRF funding will help to ensure that the road does not become a barrier for wildlife and that information on wildlife in Retezat is constantly taken into consideration as the impact of the motorway is monitored into the future.
The RRF is an emergency small grant programme that provides rapid support to allow immediate responses to major threats to wildlife conservation, primarily in UNESCO designated natural World Heritage sites as well as for sites on the Tentative list. The RRF is managed jointly by Fauna & Flora International and UNESCO World Heritage Centre and is financially supported by the United Nations Foundation, Halcyon Land & Sea and TripAdvisor. It aims to process emergency funding requests of up to US $30,000 in just eight working days.
*This particular award was financed solely by Halcyon Land & Sea, using the proven RRF model.